unnamedStung! On Jellyfish Blooms and the Future of the Ocean, by Lisa-ann Gershwin (The University of Chicago Press, 2013)

JoeAnn Hart Submits her book review for Stung!, published December 30, 2013.

I read an entire book on jellyfish, and it was worth every gelatinous minute. Here is my review, originally published on

They’re here, and we’ve not just cleared out the guest room for them, we’re opened up the front parlor, the master bedroom, rumpus room, and kitchen. Soon we’ll be barricaded in the basement with a stinging, gelatinous substance dripping on us through the cracks in the ceiling. I’m talking about jellyfish. Our relationship with them has changed for the worse. As they fill our fishing nets and clog our nuclear plant intake valves around the world, they reflect our relationship with the entire eco-system. And now it’s time to say goodnight. DNA research has recently stripped the title of First Multi-Cellular Animal from the sponge and handed it to the jellyfish, and they might very well turn out to be the Last.

When I wrote jellyfish into the plot of Float, which was released in early 2013, I could not have imagined how dire the situation would get in such a short period of time. I was still thinking that if we could find a use for them — like turning them into a true bio-plastic — there might be hope. After reading Stung! by Lisa-ann Gershwin, I am not so sure about that anymore. No matter how many we harvest, more jellyfish will just bloom in their place, because the problem isn’t just that there are too many of them, it’s that they are the bellwether for a very sick ocean. As oceanographer Sylvia Earle writes in the intro, As seas become stressed, the jellyfish are there, like an eagle to an injured lamb or golden staph to a postoperative patient – more than just a symptom of weakness, more like the angel of death.


Gershwin puts jellies in the greater perspective of the general ocean health, discussing at length how jellyfish blooms (population explosions) are the result of degraded ecosystems as well as the driver of further decline. So a large part of the book is spent explaining, in layperson’s language but with the fastidiousness of a researcher, how, exactly, jellies are able to take advantage of even the smallest anthropogenic perturbation, the fancy word for manmade disturbances. These include the usual culprits of ocean acidification and warming climates from our carbon waste, pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, oil spills, leaching plastics, and radioactive material.

Read the full review here: Stung!

One thought on “Stung!

  1. Swimming in Lanes Cove -Plum Cove beach-Wingaersheek Beach and off the rocks between lanes cove and folly cove in 1960-1968 not much in the way of Jelly Fish there were some but not too many they drift with the tides and there is a key here some also. Do see some changes in picking it up after oneself what you bring in you take out…But I also remember many fishermen and lobsterman was keen on picking it up also. Did once in awhile run into a sinker and fishhook – that may have found freedom itself over time but rare. Depending upon where you were at of the break wall had more than the cove. I live by a park this way and it’s sad to say many leave allot behind the older folks seem to always be picking up after them ages – 5-60 there is no excuse here nothing more than 2 minutes away – because there are trash bags thought out the park and the major trash area for houses is a wooden area sealed with receptacles (Just being Lazy or not properly shown as a child by example…Sad part is it’s a children’s park as there are many apartment complexes nearby). I could fill up a large trash bad in no time flat…Had a person pull up one day in vehicle take his ashtray out and dump right by my house – I told him in Korean needed to pick them up – and I asked him would he do this in front of his house, that was the foundation, he did pick them up after calling me a few choice words in the Korean language which I would repeat here!


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